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THE CHALKBOARD: Liberty a National Blue Ribbon School

It was International Talk Like a Pirate Day at La Tercera Elementary School, and the kindergarten teachers went all out to add a bit of pirate fun to the curriculum, according to principal Michele Crncich Hodge. Students and their teachers came dressed in costume to make the day memorable. “Our morning message was in pirate talk, we did pirate math using gold paint for our 10-frame activity and gold doubloons for counting. We went on a treasure hunt with maps around our playground to find snacks, which included apples, and goldfish snacks. In true pirate form, students climbed the rigging on the play structure and pretended to walk the plank on the balance beam.” The day was full of treasured memories for these young buccaneers.

Liberty Elementary School was honored this week as one of 342 schools across the United States to be designated as a National Blue Ribbon School. Liberty was chosen in the Exemplary High Performing Schools category. Liberty joins just 22 other such campuses in California. This is the second National Blue Ribbon School Award that Liberty has received in the past decade. Superintendent/Principal Christopher Rafanelli stated that this recognition, “Reaffirms the dedication, hard work and attention to detail of our students, staff and parents.” Rafanelli added, “It also speaks to the commitment of our entire community to make sure that every child is given the opportunity to reach his or her own potential. It takes a complete commitment to the values and philosophy of our school, by our staff and parents, to provide such an enriching and profound educational experience.” Liberty alum and longtime teacher Jolene Baxman said, “We’re excited to be recognized. It reflects on our amazingly supportive and caring community. Our staff and parents come together to benefit all children.” The recipients will be recognized in a ceremony in November in Washington, D.C. Congratulations, Liberty School.

The investigation focus question in the Sonoma Mountain Elementary third-grade classroom was, “What happens when magnets interact with other magnets and paper clips?” The students were given each a black object to observe. They all concluded they were magnets. Principal Michele Gochberg said the group discussed science vocabulary words such as force, pull, gravity, etc. Twenty-five paper clips were given to each student group. They experimented to see what would happen when the two objects were introduced to each other. Lastly, pictures of different items with the magnets such as straws, strings and the paper clips with a tongue depressor and rubber band were shared. The setting offered students hands-on exploration of academic instruction, creating a meaningful understanding students can confidently build on as the school year continues.

Harvest Christian Lions are taking a step in going green. Harvest Christian School has been awarded $1,000 for water bottle filling stations through the Raley’s Community Grant program to create of disposable bottle free campus. Water bottle filling stations will be placed around the school for everyone’s convenience. If a student forgets their water bottle the campus will have “loaner” bottles available. This effort is contributing to the learning experience for students to live more sustainably. The school’s third-graders took their environmental learning outside with Mrs. Gomez to plant in the campus planter boxes. They studied different plants and how they grow. The lesson is helping expand the students’ environmental mindfulness.

Petaluma Kiwanis funded 83 micro-grants to local teachers and campus-based programs for this school year. The program received 112 applications and granted full or partial funding to 74 percent of the applicants for a total of $26,549. Most awards were between $250 and $500. Funding supported science kits, math, reading and library materials, drama and music materials, Maker programs and technology, and even offset bus costs for field trips. Grants were given to pre-school to post-secondary grade levels, including programs for students with special needs. Campuses benefiting from the grant awards include Casa Grande High, La Tercera Elementary, Loma Vista Elementary, Miwok Elementary, Old Adobe Elementary, Sonoma Mountain Elementary, Cinnabar Elementary, Cypress School, Dunham Elementary, Harvest Christian School, Kenilworth Junior High, McKinley Elementary, Meadow Elementary, Penngrove Elementary, Petaluma High School, Petaluma Junior High, and San Antonio High School. This is the third year of the Kiwanis micro-grant program.

(Maureen Highland is a Petaluma mother and executive director for the Petaluma Educational Foundation. She can be reached at schools@arguscourier.com)